Writing in the Monster and Critics web site, Jean-Baptiste Piggin describes a quandary that many libraries face: after digitizing their existing collections, do they throw the paper book away?
For private collections of 20th-century books, digitization may mean destruction, since the books have almost no market value. That is especially true of paperbacks. The question becomes more importtant, however, when discussing older books that do have some resale value.
A report in the US Chronicle of Higher Education last week described how a professor, Alexander Halavais, frees up space in his cramped Manhattan apartment: he slices the binding off each book and puts the loose stack of paper in a page-fed, automatic scanner.
The images are saved on his computer and undergo an optical character recognition process to make the files searchable. Halavais then destroys the printed pages.
He plans to keep only 500 of his 3,000 paper books, and consult the rest in their digital format. He has so far processed 800 volumes.
Roger Pearse, who writes one of the internet's top ancient history blogs, said this week, "I get rid of books all the time. If you don't, you end up surrounded by a vast array of books you know you will never read again and somewhere, in that mass of mental suet, are the few books that you really do want to keep.
"I can almost never bring myself to throw them in the bin. So I pile them up in corner, and every so often I give what is in the pile to charity shops," said the British scholar, who digitizes old books.
A Hamburg, Germany illustrator-author with a large private library said he has tried selling surplus books on eBay, but it is hardly worth the trouble of answering bidders' questions and packing and posting the books sold.
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I will admit that I am doing the same. Although I haven't yet digitized very many books on my slow scanner, I am in the process of digitizing all my less-valuable books and magazines and am destroying the originals. (If still under copyright, I believe it is a violation of copyright laws to keep the digitized image and then give away or sell the original. Copyright laws clearly state that you may make backup copies only for your own use but cannot make and distribute duplicate copies for any other purpose.) I do keep the hard copies of a very few books that have sentimental value.
I hope to purchase a faster scanner before long that scans both sides of the page and has a sheet feeder.
What do YOU do? Will you throw away old books after scanning them? If not, why do you keep them?